Spring 2023 - CMNS 388 D100

Special Topics in Communication (4)

Indigenous Media

Class Number: 1445

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 4 – Apr 11, 2023: Thu, 11:30 a.m.–2:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Depends on topic; published before enrollment.



Intensive analysis of a particular topic in the general area of communication. This course can be repeated for credit up to a maximum of three times, if topic studied is different.


Indigenous media and media creators have received unprecedented visibility in recent years: Taika Waititi (Maori) won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2019 Academy Awards; Elle-Máijá Apiniskim Tailfeathers’ (Blackfoot/Sami) feature film The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (2019) was picked up for distribution through Ava Duvernay’s company, Array; and the comedy series, Reservation Dogs (FX) and Rutherford Falls (Peacock) premiered in 2021. These developments are a part of a boom in Indigenous media that has taken place in North America over the past three decades, leading to a broad and diverse media landscape made up of film, television, video, and digital media. Despite the variety and the range of production, scholarship on Indigenous media tends focus on the narrative feature film as the pinnacle of Indigenous media’s social visibility and legitimacy, a trend that has prevented the appreciation of media works in other formats.

This course will examine the rise of Indigenous media with particular attention to Canada, which has become a major site of Indigenous production in the world. Attention to the historical, social, and institutional dimensions of Indigenous media make visible the scope and diversity of Indigenous production, and areas of analysis requiring attention in order to more completely understand and interpret these works. Through readings, lectures, screenings, and assignments, students will examine Indigenous media from the history of images of “the Indian” constructed by Hollywood and anthropology, to investigation of different forms of Indigenous production, which not only challenge and transform colonial image culture but are shaped and defined by Indigenous experiences, interests, and priorities. Students will employ cinema and media theory alongside Indigenous cultural theory, and examine the history of social movements and Indigenous cultural activism in order to analyze how the field has developed and evolved.


  • Tutorial 15%
  • A weekly reading response of 350-500 words 20%
  • Paper prospectus and annotated bibliography 15%
  • One term paper (10-12 pages) 50%


*Assignments will be confirmed at first lecture.



Required readings will be available on Canvas under “Files.”


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html